Runny Nose May Worsen Migraines

Migraines and Allergies

People who suffer from migraines who also have a runny nose (rhinitis) due to hay fever and allergies may have worse headaches than people who don’t deal with allergies, says a team of researchers.

According to available statistics, about 1o percent of Americans, including children, experience migraines.  About 10 to 30 percent of people worldwide deal with nasal allergies.

This study is one of the first linking the runny nose and nasal irritation associated with allergies to how often people experience migraines, according to Dr. Vincent Martin, the lead author of the study.

Martin says they are not sure at this point whether rhinitis is what worsens headaches or if the migraines themselves are what is triggering the allergy symptoms.  However, they can say, according to Martin, that people with allergy symptoms like rhinitis are more likely to have more frequent and disabling headaches.

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati, Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and Vedanta Research teamed up for the study examining the link between a runny nose and migraines.

To study the link, the team looked at data from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study.  In this 2008 study, a questionnaire was completed by almost 6,000 people from across the nation who had had migraine headaches.  In order to determine who suffered from rhinitis, the participants were asked the question, “Do you suffer from nasal allergies, seasonal allergies or hayfever?”

About two-thirds of those with migraines also suffered from nasal allergy symptoms, which, according to study author Jonathan Bernstein, indicates that these two conditions are “intimately linked.”

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that the odds of someone having more frequent migraines was 33 percent greater for those who also suffered from rhinitis.

The study also sought to classify the participants based upon whether their rhinitis was allergic, mixed or non-allergic in nature.  For example, if the study participants experienced their nasal symptoms only when exposed to common allergens, such as pet dander or tree pollen, they were classified as has having “allergic rhinitis,” while those whose symptoms occurred in response to other triggers, such as the weather or cigarette smoke, were classified as having “non-allergic rhinitis.”  Those with a mix of both were classified as “mixed.”

Those people who had mixed rhinitis were found to do the worst as far as frequency of migraines.  They were 45 percent more likely than their counterparts without rhinitis to experience more frequent headaches.  They were also 60 percent more likely to suffer from more disabling headaches than the group without rhinitis.

According to Richard Lipton, another researcher who worked on the study, these findings could have important implications as far as treating migraines.  If having a runny nose makes headaches worse, then it could be very important to treat it as a part of treating migraine headaches in order to relieve some of the patient’s suffering.

The study was published online on November 25, 2013 in the medical journal Cephalalgia.

By Nancy Schimelpfening


Got the Sniffles? Migraines Spike With Allergies and Hay Fever, Researchers Find – EurekaAlert!

Migraine Fact Sheet – Migraine Research Foundation

Allergy Statistics – American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology


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